March - April 2016 Industry Update

Summary of recent Right of Entry Permit activity

Right-of-entry permits allow union officials to enter building worksites under certain circumstances. Within the building and construction industry, holding a permit is deemed a privilege and it is important that the rules governing the use of right-of-entry permits are followed by relevant personnel.

FWBC often makes submissions to the Fair Work Commission to refuse, revoke, suspend or amend an individual’s right-of-entry permit if concerns are raised regarding whether an individual meets the ‘fit and proper person’ criteria for holding a lawful permit. A list of current union officials who do not hold a valid federal entry permit is available here.

A summary of finalised permit activity undertaken by FWBC since 1 March is below.

7 March 2016 – Brian Parker and Robert Kera (CFMEU – New South Wales)

The FWC ordered that right of entry permits held by NSW CFMEU State Secretary  and Assistant Secretary Robert Kera would be suspended for 3 months if, within 6 months of that order, the relevant individual was ordered by a court to pay a pecuniary penalty for a contravention of the Fair Work Act.

The FWC accepted FWBC’s submission that Mr Parker misused right of entry provisions by using his entry to the UTS Gehry site in Sydney for purposes other than his stated purpose of consulting workers on suspected safety contraventions; and that Mr Kera misused right of entry provisions by failing to sign in or notify the occupier of the UTS FEIT site in Broadway, Sydney, before entering.

The same submission alleged that the CFMEU and eight other officials misused right of entry provisions across a number of sites in Queensland and New South Wales. The remaining matters in this submission are yet to be finalised.

20 April 2016 – Scott Vink (CFMEU – Queensland)

The FWC revoked  Scott Vink’s right of entry permits and banned the issue of any further permit for two years following an incident at the Pacific Fair shopping centre redevelopment which resulted in Mr Vink and the CFMEU being dealt near maximum fines of $9,000 and $48,000 respectively.

Mr Vink had purported to enter the site for safety purposes but he instead went to the site sheds and removed workers’ belongings, including taking their lunches from the fridge and leaving them outside on the ground, before launching into an obscenity-laced tirade.

In revoking the permits, the FWC said that Mr Vink misused his right of entry privileges to pursue other agendas.

The CFMEU’s submission to the FWC said that Mr Vink’s conduct leading to the contravention was out of character in so far that there was no record of Mr Vink having acted in such a way previously in relation to his powers as a Permit Holder over the past seven years.

However the FWC noted that while that was the case in relation to Mr Vink’s status as a permit holder, it was not the first occasion on which Mr Vink has been ordered to pay a penalty by the Court under an industrial law.

The FWC banned the issue of any further permit to Mr Vink’s until 20 April 2018.

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